Star struck

Does anybody remember reading "The Celestine Prophecy"? It came out over 10 years ago so even if you have early-onset oldtimers you should still have it in the recesses of your mind. The "Da Vinci Code" of its day, one of the key factors is "unexplained coincidences".

Whilst a work of fantasy, the book hit a note with many as it pushed the boundaries of conventional spirituality without defying them and explored notions often considered a bit "out there" despite some of the world's major religions acknowledging spirits, multiple dimensions and resonance, and the scientific discovery (mathematical proof) of worm holes.

Only recently I heard a piece on the radio about gut instinct and decision making, with top level executives cited as relying on gut instinct and that gut instinct decisions are frequently good and sound, based on information the subconscience gathers over a life time of experience and perhaps primordial wiring. I've tried to find the reference but a search on auntie only sends me to a similar discussion with Dr Norman Swan 10 years ago - clearly this isn't a new line of thinking.

On a personal level I find gut instinct a little confusing. The scientist in me is analytical and factual, wanting to weigh up the pros and cons. The legal eagle in me finds various angles and more often than not I am able to argue alternate sides to an argument, which tends to moderate my passion. Tangled in all of this is a further contradiction - my gut instinct. I frequently put this aside except where I have little to rely on in the facts, angles and arguments department.

Every now and again however, I get "awful feelings" in the same way that if my mother says she has "awful news" it's most probably of the mortal kind. These feelings are not premonitions, rather an ominous sense of foreboding sinks in. After my brother was in a car accident following one of these, I vowed I would not ignore my gut instinct.

10 days ago I talked myself out of a gut instinct - that I didn't know the person in question well enough, that I was over-reacting, and that I was imputing my emotions onto their circumstances. Sure enough, following the weekend, I discovered this person had fractured 2 vertebrae slipping over AND had been in hospital for 5 days as a result. I jumped in the car and headed to the hospital to pay a visit.

When I arrived my first thought was how wonderful the food from the hospital cafe smelled. My friend C had another friend with him, and she had brought him lunch. And then I realised this was not just any lunch, this was lunch from her restaurant, Bird Cow Fish.

I've previously mentioned Bird Cow Fish has long been my favourite Sydney Bistro. I admire Alex Herbert's approach to food and dining, not Haute Cuisine but excellent nonetheless (more on this another time). With her spunky husband (I can say that as I have my own) running front of house with some of the loveliest service staff in Sydney, I am a fan. Perhaps even more so because despite having two children (I've seen them at the restaurant) she still manages to get out to Flemington to chat with the growers and stallholders - I've seen her there, and wanted to say hello, but thought it was just a bit too weird even for me.

As I know all this (and more) about Alex, I felt conscious of appearing a sycophant. After all, I had come to visit an injured friend and just happened to be partaking in a conversation with someone I have admired from a distance for some time. With 2 chefs (C is a chef too) and little old me gathered around, much of the conversation focused on food and produce - from beef cheeks to churning butter, as well as sailing (C is also a sailor), dogs' names and anything else that amuses people in a hospital bed on loads of diazapam and a cheeky glass of kiwi pinot with lunch (C is also a kiwi). Despite the circumstances, it was kinda fun.

Later that day it occurred to me that perhaps there's an extra element to Bird Cow Fish and Alex's cooking that makes it so endearing for me. You see, despite C being a chef and the hospital being in a pretty hip dining area of Sydney where many of C's friends and contemporaries are based, Alex was the first to bring a meal in for him. She's obviously thoughtful, and emotion invariably adds an extra dimension to food for the sensitive soul.

Australians - world record holders through and through!

In May 2006 an obesity summit in Brisbane warned that Australia could overtake USA in the obesity stakes within a decade.1

By November 1997 a report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) singled Australia out for the country's sky-rocketing obesity rate. Australia had the fifth highest adult obesity rate, 21.7 per cent, behind the US, 32.2 per cent, Mexico, 30.2 per cent, the UK, 23 per cent, and Greece, 21.9 per cent. Australians were reported to be gaining weight even faster than people in the US, a notoriously fat nation.2

By 20th June 2008 Australia was crowned the world’s fattest nation with more than 9 million adults now rated as obese or overweight. Our so-called “fat bomb” is ticking loudly, with 72% of middle-aged males and 58% of middle-aged females overweight or obese.3

This is one "world title" we have much to be embarrassed about.

In Australia the the weather is often glorious, and to the European world we are seen as a sporty outdoor culture.

Our fresh produce is considered some of the best in the world - our beef and tuna earn top dollar on the Japanese markets, our fruits are air-freighted to asia's wealthy. Our geographical isolation our products are free of disease that blights other markets (anthrax, foot and mouth, etc.).

Despite being at the mercy of drought (and in fact this is what lead to the discovery of the el nino and la nina affect by Australian scientists) there is never a shortage of good food.

The equation is simple: (calories in) - (calories out) = (weight gain).

Overlooking the complications of metabolism, medication affecting physiological processes, the complication with respect to calories is consumed is that apparently people don't know what they are eating. Seems a little ridiculous when they're not bound and blindfolded for force-feeding, yet, as Jamie Oliver pointed out on Australian television last week, the contents of foods has changed and somewhere along the line people forgot to notice and think about it.

Currently our politicians and public service are intent on launching inquiries resulting in bureaucratic guidelines for advertising time slots and land development by foreign entities. Do you think this might be missing the point?

What is the point of having an inquiry into grocery prices and competition when the 2 major players in the market (controlling 80-90% of the spend depending on which statistics you read) barely even sell fresh food. What Australia might actually need is LESS VARIETY and LESS CHOICE - I mean really, do we need 85 different pasta & rice convenience side dishiz? And yes, there are 85 listed on colesonline!!!

Do we address advertising fast foods and snacks during children's viewing hours (do we even know what they are) or should we consider reaching beyond that and address the people that actually purchase the products for the children - yes, you know, the parents that have managed to was their hands of responsibility?

I understand that people are busy and under pressure, that children take up an enormous amount of time and effort (and Costello's baby bonus won't cover it), but I can't fathom why a family with 2 young children using a home grocery service will only buy 28 serves of fruit (enough for 2 people) and a $5 stir-fry pack (that hubby and I would get through in a night) for the week. I want to think that perhaps they'll do a supplementary shop, perhaps they were going away, but I know even still, that this family is not eating what they should be.

What do you think is the decision making factor that needs to be address in order for people to eat more fresh food?

the f-word

It's only 20 minutes into the premiere episode of this show and it's clear who the target audience for Sir Ramsay is. Love him, hate him, or just see him as another celebrity chef filling a market niche, Gordon inspires passion...

Passion from the senators of our federal government who clearly haven't walked the streets most of Australia for a long time. I mean if you heared my effing neighbours get a bit effing excited then you effing wouldn't wonder what the effing deal is about...

Gordon's money clearly comes from the 40+ horny houswife set as we see him walking down the corridor in his smart Brit-dress (is it Ben Sherman or Paul Smith he's wearing?), performing an evocative strip to his pecs before putting on his whites.

However, once you get past this, there are two things that happen - some great dishes that would inspire husbands to drool (as mine did), thus keeping the married women on tap, and a bit of swearing to prove to us all he is still at his manly "tuffness".

I don't think the swearing is great, I don't think it's necessary. I do think it's a character he adopts and it's obviously rather lucrative. We argued about this at brunch on the weekend. My mum thinks it's unnecessary and uncouth, my thoughts are already expressed here, my sister who works in marketing says he knowingly accepts the brush he is tarred with, and my brother sees him as an actor.

Whatever your opinion, he's obviously onto something...